Greg Jennings: The Road To Redemption

words_Brandon Richard

This past Sunday, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings missed what would have been the first Pro Bowl game of his budding career. However, considering the circumstances, Jennings was probably as happy as one could be to miss out on that kind of opportunity.

Players who are selected for the Pro Bowl, but are also set to play in the Super Bowl, are removed for precautionary reasons. That’s exactly where Jennings is heading. This Sunday, he and the Packers will line up opposite of the Pittsburgh Steelers for an opportunity to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in Dallas, Texas. His dreams coming true with a Pro Bowl and Super Bowl season, Greg is still humbled by times when things didn’t go his way.

Greg Jennings: The Road To RedemptionThree years ago, Jennings experienced the low point of his career as a pro.  The Packers hosted the NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants and Jennings figured to be a big factor after catching 53 balls for 12 touchdowns during the regular season and finding the endzone twice against the Seahawks in the Divisional Round. Instead, it turned out to be a nightmare outing for Jennings. He caught just 1 pass for 14 yards and the Packers squandered the opportunity to make a trip to the Super Bowl after the Giants bested them by three points in overtime.

With that performance entrenched in his memory, Greg made sure the outcome was different when the Packers returned to the NFC Championship against the division rival Chicago Bears this year. A week after Jennings set a season high for receptions in a game against the Atlanta Falcons, he followed up with what may have been his best performance of the season.

Jennings’ impact was made clear for the start of the game. On 1st and 10, quarterback Aaron Rodgers dropped back and found Jennings for a 22-yard strike. In one play, Greg topped his 2007 NFC Championship performance. That’d be far from the last time his number was called in the game though.

Greg Jennings: The Road To RedemptionOn the second play, Rodgers locates #85 again, this time for a 26-yarder. In less than a minute, Jennings had two receptions for 48 yards and the complete attention of the Bears defense. With the Chicago D focused on Jennings, Rodgers’ other targets found themselves open, leading to a touchdown on the game’s opening drive and giving Green Bay all the momentum they would need for the day.

In the game, Jennings hauled in 5 receptions for 20-or-more yards (20, 21, 22, 22 and 26), which was half as many as Chicago had given up all season. His 8 overall receptions tied his season high, which was established in the previous playoff game. Most importantly, Greg’s catches helped Green Bay win the battle of field position, and ultimately, the NFC Championship. The wide receiver from Kalamazoo, Michigan is heading to Super Bowl XLV.

Jennings’ third career 100-yard game in the postseason also ties him with Robert Brooks and Antonio Freeman for the most in Packers franchise history. Still, what keeps him motivated is remembering how he felt after the 2008 NFC Championship.

“I remember three years ago just sitting in my locker with my pads on and just having a bitter, just a sick feeling,” Jennings told reporters after the game. “So I can sympathize with [the Bears], what they’re going through over there in that locker room. But at the same time, I’m in here with my family and we’re excited about our opportunity.”

You’ll be able to see Greg fulfill his dreams of playing in the Super Bowl this Sunday at 6:30 p.m. EST. In the meantime, you can watch behind-the-scenes videos of his cover shoot with Eastbay, including this clip where he shares what steps he takes to improve his game.

images via ESPN